Answering one reader's many questions: Part 1

  Photo by    YIYUN GE    on    Unsplash

Photo by YIYUN GE on Unsplash

I recently received a lot of questions from a reader (one that I know personally). This reader sent me so many questions (by email) that I have to split the answers to them into a few separate blog posts.

Said reader also requested a pseudonym. Therefore, I will call you "Swiss Cheese" because, well, I'm sure you'll know why (I was gonna go with "DJ Esbjerg" because of the mixtape joke I made to you in the email you sent me, but I guess "Swiss Cheese" will do).

Remember, you can always send me your questions via the Ask Me Anything thread, which should stay open permanently. Enjoy!

Here's Part 2 and Part 3 of the series.

1: What do you do if you are abducted and are exposed in a forest and need to get out as fast as possible (without tools such as mobile phone, internet, GPS, compass, etc.)?

I swear this is one of those trivia questions that I’m “supposed” to know. I think the most important thing in these situations is a sense of direction, which can be extrapolated from the position of the sun. So, I guess you should figure out where the sun is and what time of the day it seems to be. Then, I suppose you would probably just wanna go in one direction all the time until you get somewhere safe.

Furthermore, something tells me that there are certain animals in the forest that, by means of their habits, “give away” what direction you’re supposed to go. Something like “certain birds always do x if they’re just coming from a place with lots of people so that’s a hint that you have to go that way” or something like that. Unfortunately, I have no idea what that may be, so the best I got is the whole “position of the sun” trick. Clearly, though, this is something I’m pretty uneducated in so thanks for reminding me to never get abducted.

2: If you had to kill someone, how/where would you dispose of the body and who would you ask to help you?

Why, you need suggestions?

(Spoiler alert for the movie Avengers: Infinity War) I would probably dispose of the body by snapping my fingers while in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, meaning that I would need to enlist the help of Thanos to lend me a hand (quite literally). A snap of the fingers would instantly disintegrate the body*, which is probably the most effortless way to dispose of a body, don’t you agree?

(*yes yes, I know. Technically “the snap” has a 50% chance of disintegrating the body. Whatever, stop being such a buzzkill)

3: Who was your crush when you were a teenager?

Haha, who wasn’t my crush would be the better question. To be fair, as a teenager I think it’s more the case that you find girls “hot” than that you really have a crush on them or are extremely attracted to their personalities (c'mon now, which teenager even has a personality). Anyway, one of the girls I had a crush on is currently a very close friend of mine so that turned out alright. For the rest, there were some Dutch girls I found really attractive and one Dutch-French girl I really liked as well (but she was hot property, so I tapped out of that race. I couldn’t compete with the other guys so there was no point in trying).

They were mostly fleeting interests, girls that I just thought were real cute but never had close to the necessary amount of courage to ask them out. I don't think I ever asked a single girl out as a teenager, I was utterly terrified and had zero confidence. Plus, the ethnic diversity of the girls I was surrounded by wasn’t particularly high so I mostly just saw blond, blue-eyed, white girls. No problem with that, but I guess I quickly became “bored” of the seeing the same stuff every day. Besides, not like they were ever interested in me. Eh, that’s life.

4: Would you rather be a dragon or would you rather have a dragon and what would it look like?

Speaking as an economist, I rather have a dragon. What does economics have to do with this? Comparative advantage, that's what. That is, I’m much smarter than a dragon, but he’s much stronger than I am. Hence, we should both stick to what we do best because my intelligence combined with his brawn would make for a formidable team. An intelligent human (me) would deal with human affairs and a dragon (him/her) to scare the shit out of everyone. If I were a dragon, then sure I would be smart and strong in one entity, but I would lose a (human) partner.

I would love for the dragon to look like Smaug from the movie The Hobbit. And as a callback to the original (subbed) version of the show Yu-Gi-Oh, I would call my dragon Aibou (which is Japanese for ‘partner’).

5: Which country have you always wanted to visit, but you haven’t made it yet?

Colombia! This is for reasons that people closest to me already know. Basically, I first became fascinated with the culture of Latin countries when I learned Spanish in high school. Then, I became fascinated with South America and, finally, I cast my eyes on Colombia, one of the most populous nations in South America but a country plagued by its unfortunate drug history and horrific civil war (with the FARC). I plan to visit and, who knows, possibly even live there some day in the next 5+ years.

6: Would you rather spend 6 months in a country that has an average outdoor temperature of +45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) or -25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit)?

Wow, that’s like asking if I prefer to die by being thrown into an active volcano or dropped onto the surface of the sun. What an astonishing luxury of choice! Anyway, I think that -25 Celsius is probably more “survivable” than the +45 Celsius one (given the risk of heat stroke and dehydration. You can wear layer upon layer in the cold but can’t strip down naked in such heat). So I’ll go for the Dr. Freeze option. That said, I do want to point out a nit-picky caveat. Technically, +45 Celsius degree is a better situation because with so much heat energy around, if you just put out an army of solar panels around you can harness all that energy and use it for endless air-conditioning, ice water, and all that stuff.

7: Which famous person (whether alive or already dead) would you like to spend a day with?

Two people that aren’t conventionally famous but are famous in my eyes: Tim Vickery and Jordan Harbinger. I’ve followed Tim Vickery for close to 7 years now on the BBC 5 Live World Football Phone-In podcast and I genuinely think he is the most eloquent speaker I’ve ever heard in my life. He’s extremely intelligent, funny, and balanced in argument. He never speaks too fast or too loud, but you can always understand everything he says. Also, he moved to Brazil in his 30s and, as an Englishman, became fluent in Portuguese and made a life and name for himself there (he’s one of the most respected journalists in Brazilian/South American football).

Given that I one day want to move to Colombia myself (I already speak Spanish) but have been scared about if I really have what it takes to do it, Tim’s story has been a huge source of inspiration for me. In this excerpt from the most recent episode on the podcast, you can hear him speak (if you don’t have Facebook, just click “not now” on the screen that pops up. The video is available to people that don't have a Facebook account). Tim is the guy with the grey-ish hair and dark blue button shirt and is standing next to the host Dotun by the platform. I recommend listening to him for at least a year though, that’s when you learn about his brilliance. I would love to ask him how he managed to make a name for himself and make such a successful life for himself in a country that was so foreign to him, with such a different culture, and with such a different language than English. How did you do it, Tim?

Then there’s Jordan. He’s funny, not in the obnoxious trying-to-be-funny-all-the-time way, but in the clever and witty way. His podcast is an endless source knowledge from legitimate scientists that base their insights on real science, not those self-help gurus that flout some nonsense on Instagram with a bunch of hashtags and “believe in yourself” inspiration. But the thing I most admire about him is that he’s not scared to question the established narrative. This reminds me so much of that Mark Twain quote of “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.

He calls people out for potentially dubious claims but, most admirably, doesn't do this in an aggressive or confrontational way, but in a respectful and calm manner. He’s also not afraid to have controversial characters on his show (he had the infamous Roger Stone on his show once) because I think he realizes that it’s stupid to reject other people’s beliefs, no matter how controversial they are, just because they make you uncomfortable. He wants to learn from them in order to become a better person, although people often mistake this for thinking that he agrees with or tolerates these controversial perspectives. I have immense respect for how he does all of this. Plus, he has the funniest ad-reads for sponsors on his podcast.

8: Would you rather be able to play any instrument or speak any language?

At the moment, probably an instrument given that I already speak 3-and-a-half languages and have always lamented that I never learned to play an instrument. But for pragmatic reasons, learning a language would certainly be smarter as it would significantly boost my career earning potential and, with the additional money earned from this, I would be better able to afford (time and money-wise) to learn to play an instrument.

9: If you woke up tomorrow as a professional athlete, which sport would you choose?

For money: basketball (NBA) or American football (NFL). For glory: football, without a doubt. Because as Pope John Paul II once said, “amongst all unimportant subjects in life, football is by far the most important.

10: If some kind of building would be named after you, which one would you choose?

I suppose the noble answer to this would be a hospital, library, or university building of some sorts. But that’s a boring answer so I’ll go for something different: a football (soccer) stadium. Although my name is a bit of a mouthful, having a stadium named after me would be lovely.

11: Which movie/book touched you the most and why?

Movie: The Little Prince. Damn I cried at the end of that movie. I think it touched me so much because the story felt so real. A person that has focused all her efforts on optimizing her life for success but, deep inside, knows that something was always… missing. Some feeling, some experience, some adventure. Something that she could only find by connecting with other worlds and with her inner playful being. It was extremely relatable and really resonated with me. It's probably why I enjoy certain videogames, movies, and stories that transport me to other worlds and make me feel that feeling that I can’t quite get in the real world so much. I’ve always been really captivated by these kinds of stories and I just can't take my mind off them. Different worlds are just so… fascinating to me.

Book: a tie between The Bridges of Madison County and the Golden Compass/Northern Lights trilogy. The Golden Compass/Northern Lights trilogy is for essentially the exact same reasons as with The Little Prince. Regarding Bridges, I think it resonated with me so much because the story centered around two people that were desperately lonely creatures but managed their loneliness well enough such that they could function in society. That said, they always felt that deep inside something was missing, even though they were “content” with their lives and always soldiered on through their loneliness. The way the main character, Robert Kincaid, described his loneliness and the way he dealt with it was extremely beautiful because it was so raw without being melodramatic. Shame I don’t have the hardcover version of it anymore.

12: If you woke up tomorrow morning without being able to ride a bike or swim, and you had to choose one thing you could learn again, what would it be?

Ride a bike, for purely pragmatic reasons. Though I live in the U.S. now, I grew up in a country where I cycled 45-60mins a day to get to school, sports, friends, and other regular daily activity. In general, I certainly see my long-term future in a country/environment where cycling is the transport of choice. I hate cars.

13: Do you think there is someone in your life to whom you owe an apology and if so, why did it not happen yet?

I feel like the morally-correct answer to this should be yes, but I really can’t think of anyone. That either means I’m emotionally tone-deaf or that I’m a really good person. I hope the latter. Then again, throughout my life I’ve always made a point of avoiding drama. Whenever I sense that “shit is about to go down”, I’m exit the scene. If it ain’t my business, I eject myself from the drama. Does that mean your life becomes a little more boring? Yes. But damn does it make life a lot more peaceful, simpler, and emotionally healthier.

14: How would you like to be buried when you die?

I would actually like to be cremated. I like the symbolism of cremation more. Besides, I find it counter-intuitive to be dead but still be taking up space in the world by means of a place in a cemetery.

15: High heels or sneakers?

I suppose you mean on a woman since, ehm, I don’t wear high heels. If I’m being selfish, I’ll say high heels but since they look like the most torturing, painful things for a woman to wear, I’ll say sneakers. Seriously, high heels look like absolute torture and surely cannot be healthy for your feet. Health is more important than looking good.

16: Mascara or lipstick?

Again, I suppose you mean on a woman. It’s a tie for me on this one. Mascara can certainly bring out the astonishing beauty of a woman’s eyes but many women look beautiful without it as well. Regarding lipstick, the right color lipstick (just for the record, I’ve always really, really disliked the dark-blue/black shades of lipstick) can make a woman look extraordinarily sexy. That said, I much prefer kissing a woman that doesn’t have lipstick on because a) it’s less messy and b) it feels much better, softer, and more natural.

17: Dress or jeans?

I’m starting to sound repetitive now: I suppose you mean on a woman. I’ll say a dress. The best way to describe this is that I think jeans make a woman look “hot” while a dress will make her look beautiful.

18: Backpack or handbag?

Backpack. Thanks to my cousin, I actually found out about this very clever anti-theft backpack that has the zipper on the back rather than the front side of it. I don't have it (yet), but might buy it someday

19: Wine or beer?

Wine by a wide margin. Beer just bloats your stomach like crazy. Wine is much classier too.

20: Tattoo or piercing?

Not a fan of either one, honestly. But the lesser of the two evils is a tattoo because at least it can carry a deeper meaning. A piercing is just… I don’t know, not much of a deeper significance to be found there.

21: Sea or mountains?

Mountains. They’re more interesting. They can have forests, deserts, ice, etc. The sea is a bit too melancholic for my liking.

22: Morning person or evening person?

Evening for sure. I can deal with waking up early to go to work and function well enough in the morning, but I don’t do it with much joie de vivre.

23: Tea or coffee?

Tea. Haven’t had coffee since I was 15 and I doubt I ever will again in my life. I've never felt like I needed coffee to function.

24: Vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream?

Chocolate, but not too strong/dark chocolate because that just burns my stomach.

25: Sweet or salty?

Sweet. Everything in moderation though!

That's all for Part 1!

Stay tuned for more next week!

See you, Space Cowboy.